The Explosion of the Climate Change Movement
By: Ethan Mathieu
Each published report from scientists paint a more disturbing picture when it comes to climate change. The most recent findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that worldwide carbon emissions would need to be cut by 30% by 2045 in order to keep the rise in global temperature under 1.5°C. This seemingly negligible increase would actually have catastrophic effects on the world. If the temperature rise was above 1.5°C, the IPCC predicts deadlier floods, higher rates of poverty, and impacts on biodiversity.
However, the world seems to have finally grasped the sheer urgency of the situation, or at least has woken up to it. Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish girl, began protesting outside her parliamentary building on Fridays in 2018, re-energizing her generation’s zeal for the climate debate. A worldwide student climate protest saw millions of students follow her lead and skip school to lobby for a better planet ahead of the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit; it was one of the largest public displays on global warming in history.
The ball still, however, remains idly in the court of world legislatures. There seems to be ample desire to improve climate conditions among the electorate, but without action by international bodies, it doesn’t matter. The first substantial step towards a sustainable climate came with with the Paris (Climate) Agreement in 2016. The main goal was to keep the global temperature below 1.5°C. Steps to achieve this include with a global stocktake every 5 years to examine collective CO2 emissions progress and a regular reporting of emissions. The major accomplishment of the agreement was the fact that countries were finally recognizing the effects they had on the world. The European Union has notably adopted policies to reduce emission by 80-90% of 1990 levels by 2050, with individual countries taking more substantial steps of their own. China was the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy in 2014, as they put 83.3 billion dollars into the industry that year. Countries are at least taking steps towards providing a livable future, even if it is far from where we need to be.
Americans, particularly Democrats, are more interested than ever in Climate Change, with nearly 94% of those surveyed by Pew Research saying Climate Change is a major threat to the nation; 57% of Republicans, even if they don’t think Climate Change is human-caused, think legislation should be passed to mitigate it.
So how will this newfound interest affect future actions of the second biggest CO2 polluter in the World? One of the more prominent pieces of legislation is the Green New Deal, which might actually gain some traction due to these newly interested voters. The Green New Deal aims to help the U.S. reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, thereby taking America out of the world emissions equation. This would be achieved through a “10 year mobilization plan” which hopes to create new job fields that would intertwine the country more with renewable energy. It tries to kill two birds with one stone by using the shakeup of the social job market to promote education among traditionally less fortunate communities. It’s ambitious, but maybe that’s what is needed to resolve this crisis before it is too late.
Solving climate change requires an international effort; no piece can be missing or else the entire building will collapse. With one of the most integral pieces, the United States, leaving the Paris Agreement in 2017, the world is undoubtedly in a shakier position. Climate change affects all of us, making it one of the few issues that benefits everyone from working together.